Bill Meredith

Phoenix Charity Bar at the Bamboo Room story - July issue of the Palm Beach Arts Paper

Risen from the ashes, the Bamboo Room opened for the fourth time in Lake Worth on June 8 as The Phoenix Charity Bar (​PhoenixCharityBar) at the Bamboo Room. The reason for the new name is based more in benevolence than in the mythical birdís revival, though. More on that later.
The iconic venue, located in the 1920s-era Paradise Building, has featured international blues, rock, and jazz/​fusion artists (Bo Diddley, Elvin Bishop, Hubert Sumlin, Dan Hicks, Garaj Mahal, Col. Bruce Hampton, Joe Bonamassa, NRBQ) intermittently since first opening in 1999. Closures in the late 2000s and mid-2010s led to the site's third installment, in which the only recurring activities were Sunday services under management by Mike Olive, pastor for Common Grounds Church.
Patrons once poured in for the club's initial blues-heavy, decade-long run with something bordering on religious fervor, but any of those in attendance for the Phoenix Charity Bar's maiden voyage quickly realized that this was not their father's Bamboo Room.
"We don't want to focus on just one musical genre," said general manager Stephen Werkle, who has leased the bar for three years with partners Dan Popejoy and Michael LaMorte. "We want to be open five nights a week and feature all different kinds of music, primarily by area acts, and also have some karaoke, comedy shows and movie nights here. We don't have a lineup of upcoming shows solidified yet, but we hope to soon."
An hour into its existence, the bar's first presentation was the metallic reggae sounds, and ample dreadlocked hair, of the shirtless Lake Worth band Space Coast Ghosts. Next up was West Palm Beach retro '80s quartet Static Momentum, followed by area country trio the Tom Blake Band. Things got more pop-centric later in the evening through local group Lavola and singer/​songwriter Lindsey Mills, who's also bassist/​vocalist for the international, Wellington-spawned band Surfer Blood. But no blues was served.
The trend continued the following night via another esoteric locals lineup including Broot McCoy, Stinky Gringos, Vibes Farm, and Yardij. The turn away from a blues-heavy format had actually started during the second incarnation of the Bamboo Room, when it was run by the Paradise Building's owners, area realtor Ryan Mueller and finance industry veteran Blaine Minton. They eventually closed the club, but continue to own the building.
As attendance reached near-maximum capacity around 10 p.m. on June 8, mostly new faces mixed with occasional Bamboo Room veterans like Marlon Foster, visitor services and music manager at the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County. Mueller made an appearance, as did his Paradise Building co-owner's father, David Minton. A former Bamboo Room managing partner, the elder Minton has run his own clothing company, Action Sportwear, since 1988.
"I still do a few things with the Paradise Building, but not with the club anymore," Minton said. "Stephen, Dan and Michael are good guys with good ideas, and I've always enjoyed coming here. My wife Virginia used to hostess here, and we had some great times. I'm glad to see it back open, and the building has some good tenants downstairs as well. The pub Revelry has a nice atmosphere and selection of brews, and Rudy's, where the Bamboo office used to be, has been doing well since opening here in February. The owner, Mary [Sisoian], is bringing in musical acts that seem to draw crowds every night."
Werkle, who runs his own area information technology business, was talked into partnership at the Phoenix Charity Bar by Popejoy -- a senior corporate executive who founded the Lake Worth-based non-profit The Phoenix Mission in 2017. As its CEO and chairman of the board, Popejoy oversees programs to collect clothing for the needy, and particularly otherwise-wasted food from grocery stores, restaurants and farms to distribute to food banks, pantries and homeless shelters. Phoenix Charity Bar partner LaMonte is also that non-profit's vice president of media and PR. Proceeds from the club (advertised on its Facebook site as "The First-Ever Charity Bar in Florida") will aid in the organization's efforts.
"Dan moved an impressive 40,000 pounds of food to hungry people through the Phoenix Mission last year," Werkle said. "When he said he wanted to continue its mission by opening a bar, I told him he was crazy. Then I walked into this place for the first time, and said, 'Where do I sign?' After we cover our expenses, we donate 30% directly to the Phoenix Mission. We're using the rest to save up for a food bank."
The room bears many similarities to the one that initially opened in 1999. There are the same leopard-skin stairs leading up to its hard-wood floors, some of the same art and memorabilia on the walls, and cocktail mixers behind the original stately bar. Look up, and you'll see the same vaulted wood ceiling and unique, tubular air conditioning ducts. The outdoor patio, where patrons can go to smoke and/​or enjoy lesser volume, remains the same, with food trucks beneath it in the back parking lot. And the stage features the same PA system and house Yamaha drum kit.
On the glass half-empty side, in addition to the lack of an immediate phone number and performance calendar, the tardy sound engineer on opening night couldn't help when Space Coast Ghosts drummer Alex Mandel had trouble with both the house kit's kick and snare drums. Wine and beer selections were limited to predictable brands, including no draft beers, a stark contrast to the initial Bamboo Room's high-end bottled and draft imports and craft brews. And because of a thin wait staff, the bar got backed up as the crowd grew later in the evening. All, perhaps, growing pains that will improve, or have already.
"We're in the process of getting the phone number changed," Werkle said, "so for now, the best way to contact us is on Facebook through the Bamboo Room or Phoenix Charity Bar pages."
At press time, those pages advertised "weekly music events" on Fridays at 7 p.m., plus a trickle of ongoing additions, as the fledgling club was firming up its calendar.
"A few technical hiccups aside, the grand opening was a HUGE success," Werkle wrote on the venue's Facebook site on June 9. "Thank you to everybody who came out, and to our awesome staff!"

At press time (please check the venue's Facebook page for updates), Misfits Mondays start at 7 p.m., as do PHAT Taco Tuesdays and Karaoke Thursdays. TBT w/​High Note & Friends play at 8 p.m. July 5, Lindsey Mills & Friends at 8 p.m. July 6, the Ricca Project at 8 p.m. July 11, the Jason Craig Band at 9 p.m. July 12, Space Coast Ghosts at 9 p.m. July 13, Joey George at 9 p.m. July 14, R Kelly Blanx Reggae Night at 9 p.m. July 18, SpiderCherry at 9 p.m. July 19, SoleMark at 9 p.m. July 20, Electric Red at 9 p.m. July 21, Meta4Machine at 9 p.m. August 3, Spred the Dub at 9 p.m. August 4, Joel DaSilva at 10 p.m. August 11, Unlimited Devotion at 8 p.m. for the Woodstock anniversary party August 17, Big City at 9 p.m. August 24, and Butch & the Fat Doobs at 9 p.m. August 31, all at the Phoenix Charity Bar at the Bamboo Room, 25 S. J St., Lake Worth ($5-$10).

Selected Works

A retired attorney and grandfather living in a condo on Hillsboro Beach, FL, Jesse Finkelstein doesn't seem like a blues man. Yet he delivers the authentic American style of music, played live, around the country on the Internet and around the world via shortwave radio.
Formed in Chicago in 1988, the Smashing Pumpkins became one of the memorable bands of the 1990s through singer, guitarist and band leader Billy Corgan's introspective lyrics, alternate guitar tunings, and a mix of metallic and alt-rock styles. On July 24 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, FL, it was largely Corgan who proved why the band's reach exceeded its '90s grasp.
The fourth iteration of the Bamboo Room -- the Phoenix Charity Bar at the Bamboo Room -- opened in Lake Worth, FL, on June 8. Proprietors Stephen Werkle, Dan Popejoy and Michael LaMorte presented a hodgepodge of local acts including the metallic Space Coast Ghosts, indie rockers Static Momentum, country act the Tom Blake Band, and different variations on pop in Lavola and Lindsey Mills.